Loved and hated Asashoryu bids the ring farewell

TOKYO – Former sumo champion Asashoryu, often called a bad boy of the ancient sport, bade farewell to the ring on Sunday as he had his topknot cut in a ritual to officially end his controversial career.

More than 300 people, ranging from a professional boxer to a television personality, each cut a tiny portion of his knot with a large pair of gold-coloured scissors on the ring under the glare of fans and media.

Asashoryu, who quit the sport in February after a bust-up with the sport's authority, sat rigid and shut his eyes tight when his stablemaster Takasago chopped off the final strand.

"I have two hearts beating in my body -- Mongolia gave me birth and Japan fostered me. I love these two countries most," the 30-year-old Mongolian said on the ring to huge cheers from fans after he parted with the knot.

He saluted the fans as he left the ring. He kissed its side and raised both hands in the air before leaving the arena.

After the ceremony, Asashoryu, whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj, told reporters he wanted to be "reborn as a Japanese."

"It's my dream to become a yokozuna as a Japanese," he said, using the Japanese word for a grand champion.

He won enthusiastic followers with his "bad boy" image and colourful character.

But he also angered traditionalists who believed his comments and behaviour were too abrasive for a sumo champion expected to be a discreet social role model.

He quit the sport after he was accused of punching a man in a midnight drunken rampage at a Tokyo nightclub.

Earlier this year sumo was rocked by scandals involving links to organised crime, including widespread mob-run illegal gambling.

Public broadcaster NHK in July refused to air a tournament live for the first time in 58 years in protest but live coverage came back on the autumn tournament last month.

Asashoryu's compatriot, grand champion Hakuho, won the tournament and extended his winning streak to 62 bouts, another step toward a record 69-bout run made by the legendary Futabayama in the 1930s.

Source:AFP, French News Service
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